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An Uneasy Silence

It's his party but will the guests still come?


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Steve Jobs' idea to digitally sign all third party software for his gadget platforms is nearing full implementation. The iPhone suddenly ran with the safety of Windows and no one at the company seemed to care; the next anyone knew they'd introduced digital signing.

Digital signing is a poor excuse for proper security but Apple don't seem overly concerned about security. However they do seem concerned about the bottom line and their CEO seems concerned as always that other people are playing with his banana - coming uninvited to his party.

Apple products are supposed to be so terribly user friendly but the truth is they get very annoying at times. And the iPhone is going to get increasingly annoying for a lot of people real soon now.

Podcaster

The writers at Uneasy Silence explain.

I am a podcast addict, matter of fact it is my sole source of news. When I lived and breathed the PalmOS I used a AWESOME program called QuickNews that downloaded all my favorite show feeds to my Treo.

Since switching to the iPhone my 'on the fly' podcast consuming days were quickly put to an end. Thankfully someone saw a need for podcasting on the iPhone and created one of the best web apps I have ever seen called Podcaster.fm. But, web apps are only good if you have a data connection. Alex, the developer of Podcaster.fm, has been secretly programming a NATIVE iPhone podcasting application that lets you stream and download podcasts to your iPhone so you can get your podcast fix on the fly, without a computer.

Alex kindly let me beta test the software, which he is submitting to the AppStore tomorrow and I must say I'm very impressed.

There are several steps involved in getting Apple to allow third party iPhone apps to run. First you have to download the iPhone SDK. This is not a hurdle in any way shape or form as Apple literally barrage people with nags to take the booty. Perhaps as many as half a million people have downloaded the iPhone SDK at one time or another - some perhaps out of pure boredom as development within Apple on more mainstream projects such as real operating systems for real computers seems to have not only come to a standstill but been passed by.

But that's only the first step: after getting the iPhone SDK the developer has to apply to be part of the third party software development programme. Yet out of the first 250,000 applicants Apple chose to only deal with 4,000 - the other 246,000 can very simply go stuff it.

But that's not the end either: for the only way to sell third party software for the iPhone is through Steve Jobs' own 'App Store'. This is a great deal for developers, Steve points out, because developers get to keep a walloping 70% of the revenues they generate!

Put another way: Apple 'pirate' the market and take a 30% cut for doing nothing.

And of course your app has to be 'approved'. There is no high court to take a bad ruling to - if you don't get in you don't get in.

Some people might argue this is the same situation as at Best Buy or Circuit City or PC World: if they don't want to stock your product they simply won't.

But there's a huge difference: even if the big chains don't stock your product you can still sell it online and people who want it can still download it and use it. That's the nature of open software systems.

Steve Jobs doesn't know much about software systems, open or closed - all he knows is if his gadgets are shiny and attractive and that they are his all his.

And Steve Jobs sees Podcaster as a threat so he won't be running it. End of story.

Monopoly Abuse?

Podcaster author Alex Sokiryansky explains.

Apple Rep says:

Since Podcaster assists in the distribution of podcasts, it duplicates the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes. That's right folks, it duplicates the functionality of the desktop version of iTunes. Therefore it was denied from sale in the app store. Although my app does allow you to listen to podcasts (like iTunes) it also allows you to download them directly to device and that is something Apple does not offer.

I find this a bit strange considering there are numerous apps that duplicate the functionality of other apps. For example, any calculator app is duplicating the functionality of Apples calculator app. Any app that tells you the weather is duplicating the Yahoo weather app. Any app that let's you listen to music is duplicating the iPod portion of the iPhone.

There are also several apps that simply allow you to listen to a podcast (Diggnation and Mobility Today just to name a few) that are not denied from the app store.

Apple had nothing in the terms prohibiting developers from duplicating features currently available on desktop application. I followed all the guidelines and made sure everything is in the correct place. Yet Apple denies me because I allow users to download podcasts just like iTunes.

I have emailed them back to find out what I must do in order for the app to be approved. I still have not received a reply. In the mean time, I have started to distribute the app via the Ad Hoc Method. If you would like to purchase a copy, please head over to http://www.nextdayoff.com and submit your UDID.

Uneasy Silence say:

This is a HUGE disappointment. Al made some VERY valid points in his post about application duplication and he has begun to distribute the application outside of the App Store using Appl's AdHoc distribution system. he is asking for a $9.99 donation and if you are looking to get your hands on this piece if software you can find it here.

Missing out on the obsequious 'App store' is of course a big blow; but anytime Steve wants he can stop the app from working at all.

Blog Comments

Users in the blogosphere have not been kind.

Apple is wasting developer's time. It's sad really. Developers have no way of knowing whether Apple with lower the boom on them AFTER all the development and design has been complete.

http://blog.wired.com/gadgets/2008/08/apple-bans-murd.html

This is sad. Such a great app with really valuable functionality. Duplication of iTunes functionality? Bull-baloney. I have to CONNECT my Touch to my computer to download my podcasts. I CAN'T do that with the existing iPhone/Touch software. Come'on Apple. You're acting like a frickin' gorilla. (Grumble...)

This is just absurd. Exactly what qualifications must be met to have your app in the App Store. A bunch of the apps still on there are crap!

Is there any way to appeal a decision like this? Could he submit these other apps as evidence for consideration to still be added? Regardless, I'm going to go donate for my own copy.

Well Alex has gone the high ground and is distributing the application via Apple's sanctioned Ad Hoc method. I hope with a little press this application will get through the gates.

Any iPhone developer having a similar problem email me at dan [@] uneasysilence.com

This is not the first podcast application that has been denied. I know of one other see this article

http://podcastanswerman.com/itunes-app-store-denies-iphone-without-consistency/

That's why we jailbreak! Because of crap just like this:(

Nanny Steve

Charlie Sorrel at Wired writes about a related case.

Yesterday's post on iPhone comicbooks drew some great points in the comments. But it was an email sent to me by artist Paul Jason Holden that made me realize why comics won't succeed on the iPhone, and why the App Store's 'quality control' is just a euphemism for 'censorship'.

Holden and writer Al Ewing (both 2000AD alumni) put together a comic book designed from the start to work on the iPhone's small screen, complete with 'making-of' videos. They submitted it to the App Store (as a free download) and Apple refused to take it. Why? Holden:

Unfortunately Apple have decided the content does not satisfy their 'community standards'.
And this, reader, is the problem. Apple can do what it likes with the App Store. After all, big magazine stores don't sell pornography (although ironically the little mom and pop stores take up the slack as it were). You can choose.

But Apple control the whole market for iPhone apps - you have no choice in where you buy. So Apple censoring content based on questions of taste rather than simply vetting it for safety is a big deal.

If you get anything else from the iTunes Store - video, music, podcasts - it can be marked as explicit. Podcasters can throw pretty much anything up on iTunes and it will stay there, ready for responsible adults to make their own decisions on what to download. So why the difference with applications? If the guys had released this as a free PDF podcast all would have been fine. But by making it an application, Apple feels it can step in and either be an arbiter of taste or just nanny its users, neither of which is a good thing.

And that's truly part of it. But the deeper murkier truth is Apple can't stop people from opening specific files - but they can stop them from running specific programs. Their digital signing will give them that anytime Steve wants.

Who cares if security is good? Certainly not Apple! But they do care about who gets to attend their party and the games guests get to play.

TP Jackson might call it monopoly abuse but in the meantime Apple users are going to have to put up or shut up. It's Steve Jobs' party, not everyone is invited, and he's changing the invitation lists all the time.

IMPORTANT NOTE: We are NOT selling Podcaster. We are giving it away as a free gift when we receive a donation of $9.99 or more. The program should work for a minimum of one year but since Apple can turn it off remotely the 1 year installation is not guaranteed. We will do everything in our power to keep the program working. All donations are final and cannot be refunded.
 - Podcaster Disclaimer

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